Charter School Fiscal Reality: Dependent on Donations
Livermore Valley Charter School (LVCS) relies on $1,000 per student per year due to the funding gap inherent in charter schools. As noted in a letter from LVCS Principal Tara Aderman to parents: “It is critical that all parents, especially our new parents, understand that all of the public funding sources for LVCS falls at least $1,000 per student short of what the other public schools in Livermore receive.”
In a separate communication to parents, LVCS noted: “The $1,000 per student is the monetary difference between what a school district school receives and what LVCS receives, without even counting our construction needs. If everyone were able to participated at the $1000 per student level, we would be able to narrow the funding gap. However, with 66% of families donating to last year’s Annual Fundraising Drive and not necessarily at the $1000 per student level, we fall short of that goal.”
LVCS has run into money troubles in the past, quoting Bill Batchelor, COO of Tri-Valley Learning Corp. “In the past, in our desire to provide every possible experience for our children, we spent beyond our means funded primarily by long term loans and leases. The principal and interest on those loans and leases have begun to impact the overall finances of the school.”
The Tassajara Prep Fiscal Plan makes no mention of revenue from charitable donations even though most charter schools, including Livermore Valley Charter School as noted above, depend in part on donations to offer a full program. Here are just a few additional examples:
- Bullis Charter School (BCS) has the following statement on their website: “BCS depends on its entire parent community to make generous donations each year. To help cover the funding gap, we ask each family to donate towards the BCS Annual Campaign goal of $1,400,000. Our suggested donation for this year is $4,000 per student.”
- Community Harvest Charter in Sherman Oaks is asking families to donate at least $1,000 per student per school year.
- Downtown College Prep in San Jose states on their website that they need to fundraise annually $1 million to be able to offer a full program (which is 1/3 of their annual budget).
- Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz is asking each parent to donate at least $3,000 per student per school year ” to bridge the funding gap” (source: Pacific Collegiate School FAQ).
Budget challenges are facing schools across California – district-run and charter. Charter schools are particularly vulnerable – 29% of charter high schools in California have failed, primarily due to financial challenges.
According to a Thomas B. Fordham Institute study, which looked at charter school funding vs. district-run school funding, charter schools on average get 22 percent less per student. According to the Fordham Study the charter school funding gap for California charter schools is wider – 31.5% on average. Tassajara Prep’s claim that donations will not be required to offer a complete program does not mesh with the Fordham data or the evidence from other charter schools in California.
According to this article, charter schools in New York receive nearly $1,500 per student per year in donations.
Charter high schools, due to the diversity of programming required to prepare students for college, typically require higher donation levels than elementary and middle schools. OneDublin.org therefore recommends parents budget for a donation of $1,000 – $3,000 per student per year when considering the Tassajara Prep charter school proposal.
OneDublin.org also encourages Tri-Valley Learning Corp. to revise its fiscal plan to account for charitable donations typical at other charter schools – including Livermore Valley Charter School (part of Tri-Valley Learning Corp., the same corporation driving Tassajara Prep). OneDublin.org additionally questions ability of Tri-Valley Learning Corp. to construct a new high school without significant charitable contributions.